Archive for the 'pessimism' Category

19
Nov
11

OWS and the things we choose to do together

When I attended the University of Oregon, I was the editor of a libertarian-leaning opinion magazine. I argued forcefully — often vulgarly — against government power. If you’re not familiar with the political makeup of most public college campuses, this went over about as well as a plate of pickled pigs feet at a kosher potluck.

The liberal students I debated with often responded to my arguments with equal parts smug condescension and amusement. I obviously was too much of a whacko, knee-jerk anti-government nut, they concluded, to understand the finer points of the social contract and government authority. Government is just the collective will of the people, they sighed, not a leviathan.

Funny, then, how many of my generation suddenly discovered in the past week or so that state-sponsored violence exists. The most egregious example came yesterday at UC Davis, where a police officer pepper-sprayed a group of protesters who were sitting peacefully on the ground.

Surprising, I assume, because they weren’t paying attention or were not part of a minority group frequently targeted by police. Not surprising to me. I’ve been reading about this kind of thing — excessive force, no-knock drug raids, warrantless search and seizure, evidence suppression — for several years now.

I suppose one of the nice parts about being “knee-jerk anti-government” is I don’t have to deal with any surprise or cognitive dissonance in situations like UC Davis. Despite my disagreements with the Occupy movement’s rhetoric, tactics and goals — e.g. protesting for more of the same government that pepper sprays them in the face — I’ll never condone or apologize for police brutality. Excessive police force is wrong. Always.

Nor do I have to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to ask, “Where have our civil liberties gone?” while simultaneously supporting politicians and policies that expand the size of the very government suppressing those rights.

Shepard Fairey, creator of the iconic Obama “Hope” poster, released a new poster today in support of Occupy Wall Street. The poster reads, “Mister President, we HOPE you’re on our side.” In a statement, Fairey calls Obama “a potential ally of the Occupy movement.”

This, as Reason editor Nick Gillespie points out, is depressing.

That Fairey would consider Obama a potential ally shows either willful disregard or flat-out ignorance of what the president has actually done since taking office. This is the president who voted for the bank bailouts while in the Senate. This is the president who has continued, if not accelerated, the previous administration’s line on foreign policy, the drug war and state secrets. This is the president who ordered the assassination of two American citizens without due process via Predator Drone. This is the president who received the most Wall Street donations of any candidate in history in 2008. This is the president who continues to hold fundraisers with Wall Street executives, such as the head of bankrupt Wall Street firm MF Global, which is under investigation for misappropriating $600 million of its customers’ money.

It’s abundantly clear where Obama stands, and it’s not with Occupy Wall Street.

It’s alright, though. Every generation of idealists has to learn on its own that, when the chips are on the table, government is not “another word for the things we choose to do together” or a synonym for national greatness, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pseudo-fascistically suggests in her “Lean Forward” commercials.

One more quick trip down memory lane: Those same college friends who are now outraged and likely shouting about the “corporate police state”* also argued with me that there was no reason to own a handgun because we can just call the police for protection. When I suggested the Second Amendment was more than just protection against random criminals — in fact largely intended as a defense against threats to liberty both foreign and domestic — they laughed at me. Such fear of the government was incomprehensible to them.

I would say I’m the one laughing now, except I’m not.**

* “Corporate police state” is a term I find particularly amusing and illustrative of the OWS crowd’s misplaced ire. The corporations the protesters are railing against don’t care if they camp in public parks or march in the streets, insofar as they don’t disrupt those companies’ productivity. The government cares. Mayors, many of them Democrats, are the ones who ordered the evictions of the Occupy encampments. Putting aside the question of whether or not illegally camping in a public space is a First Amendment right, it was the the courts, not Wall Street fat cats, who upheld those orders. Police, vested with authority by the government, not K Street lobbyists, are the ones who enforced those orders.

** I’m not suggesting violence against police or armed revolution in any way here, merely that there is a very real reason the drafters of the Constitution did not leave the people’s security solely in the hands of the state.

22
Jul
11

I’m Sure This Was Just an Understandable Reaction

to Norwegian imperialism, or some such nonsense.

20110722-021438.jpg

19
Jul
11

Tuesday Misc.

Via The Agitator, we learn that the Koch Brothers are responsible for the Casey Anthony verdict. No, really:


But, more than an inability to understand complex legal theories, I think the reason the jury was unable to convict Anthony was that it just didn’t buy the prosecution premise that a woman who enters a hot-body contest while her child is lost has both the motive and propensity to kill her. In a society where people have the fundamental right to enjoy themselves – others be damned – an immature and self-obsessed mother is no more likely to murder an innocent baby than your run-of-the-mill reality-show hausfrau. And anyone who criticizes her for those acts of carefree self-expression is a judgmental prude.

That’s where individualism of the libertarian model has taken us. The idea that no one has the right to tell us how to live our lives (Legalize drugs! Ban motorcycle helmets! Don’t ban violent videos! Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!) has led us to a place where caring about No. 1 has become a secular religion, and turned all of those who preach restraint into heretics.


The Koch Brothers could not be reached for comment.

—–

Why does President Obama hate Mexicans?


Administration apologists claim that these tactics are meant to create the political space for comprehensive immigration reform. But the president has made literally no effort to advance that objective. What he has advanced is a labor agenda under the guise of immigration policy.

The great hope from President Obama when he took office was that, having spent his formative years abroad, he’d understand—and use his bully pulpit to help the American public understand, too—that immigration is not a zero-sum game: Immigrants seeking a better life make America better off, just as his family made the countries where they lived better off. Instead, he has pandered to Republicans’ parochialism and labor’s protectionism to advance his own political prospects.

—–

Remember that neo-Nazi group Prussian Blue (you know, the one with the Aryan Olsen Twins)? Sounds like Lamb and Lynx (these are their real names…) are still kicking around, though it sounds like their drug of choice these days is cannabis, rather than Zyklon-B:


In college, Lynx was diagnosed with cancer, and suffered from other serious health problems. Lamb suffers from chronic back pain. In connection with these two conditions, they have begun to smoke cannabis, which is permitted in parts of the USA for medicinal purposes…

““I’m not a white nationalist anymore,” Lamb told The Daily in an exclusive interview, the twins’ first in five years. “My sister and I are pretty liberal now.”

“Personally, I love diversity,” Lynx seconded. “I’m stoked that we have so many different cultures. I think it’s amazing and it makes me proud of humanity every day that we have so many different places and people.”

29
Jun
11

The Progressive Problem With Race

Over the past several years, since Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency — and indeed even before that, during his candidacy — we have seen a lot of hand-wringing, particularly among progressives and in the press, about race. Early hopes of a fanciful and long-heralded “national conversation” about race quickly gave way to dark accusations that, in the words of former President Jimmy Carter himself, “… an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.

Continue reading ‘The Progressive Problem With Race’

24
Jun
11

Is This What They’re Teaching Them Over in the Journalism School?

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken pot shots at the poor old Oregon Daily Emerald. Hell, it’s been awhile since I’ve even bothered to pick up an issue. Sitting in the storied old Cafe Siena this afternoon, however, I made the mistake of taking a glance at the “opinion” page for this week’s issue.

Now, it’s no secret that the quality of the ODE’s opinion writers, never stellar to begin with, has witnessed in the last half-decade or so a steady decline into what can only be called “pedestrian sub-mediocrity.” Each year, one subjects oneself to another round of banal “first post!” essays by the new pack of commentators in the vain hope that — just maybe! — one of them will claw their way out of the scum and the muck, take a few gasping breaths, and say something moderately interesting. Or at least hilariously stupid. Each year, alas, one is inevitably disappointed.

So it was today, reading Ian McKivor’s “inaugural column” — a rather lofty way of referring to what is is essence a fairly uninteresting blog post, which is ironic, since the gist of his piece is that blogs are like… bad, and stuff. And not just bad, but dangerous. No, really:

People are idiots, and people who read blogs and take their word for it are dangerous idiots. They aren’t just a danger to themselves, but to those around them and society at large. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that they are a major source of societal regression.

“Societal regression.” Got that?

Unfortunately, after dropping that bombshell on his readers, the esteemed author has nowhere left to go but straight back to 1995, making the staggeringly fresh case that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet:

Any schmuck with an opinion can get on the web, set up a WordPress account and go to town spewing out whatever vapid crap happens to get into his head. [“Vapid crap” you say? Perish the thought. -ed] A blogger doesn’t have to have any experience in the field in which they write, nor do they have to adhere to the most basic tenants [sic] of journalistic professionalism or integrity.

So, in effect, they can pass off filth as fact while remaining anonymous. And oh, by the way, people will believe them en masse for the same reasons people believe everything they see on TV. Brilliant.

“Brilliant.” Took the words right out of my mouth, he did. Ahem.

McKivor then launches into a clumsy philippic against Tom Macmaster, the cybernetic crossdresser who got his thrills masquerading as a Syrian lesbian on websites before it came out (no pun intended) that he was neither Syrian nor a woman, to say nothing of a lesbian. While it’s hard to take issue with the spirit of his condemnation of Macmaster, McKivor’s amateurish prose effectively blunts whatever power the one and only example backing up his thesis might’ve had. Example:

MacMaster never had to face the looming threat of imprisonment, intense torture and eventual death at the hands of some demented regime. He was safe in Scotland, probably writing at a Starbucks with an Exxon Valdez-sized Latte [sic] in hand without even contemplating the harm he was doing.

“Probably writing at a Starbucks with an Exxon Valdez-sized latte?” From whence does our intrepid reporter come by these details? Or maybe he’s just engaging in a sly performative joke intended to illustrate why we can’t believe everything we read. Yeah… maybe that’s it.

One could go on, of course — the expected, sneering reference to “blind sheep” (what, no “sheeple?”) comes in toward the end, as does an unintentionally funny suggestion to go watch a documentary called “Talhotblond” if you’re not already convinced by McKivor’s dazzling  rhetoric about how dangerous online anonymity can be. Finally, we’re assured that we can trust the things we read in the mainstream media — because it’s fact checked, you see.

The problem is that, as monumentally hollow and paralyzingly routine as McKivor’s piece is, it nevertheless serves as a powerful example of how far standards have fallen. Is the sort of err.. “incisive criticism” and “sterling prose” — to say nothing of the lunk-headed Luddism — that they’re peddling over in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism these days? Why would anyone pay for such a self-evidently worthless degree? And is this drooling scribbler really the best the Emerald  could dredge up for next year?

Alas, McKivor himself gives away the answer in his very first sentence:

Because this is my inaugural column for the Oregon Daily Emerald, I feel I should start things off by making my stance clear, just so all of you know what to expect from my weekly opinion column.

Ah. So puerile rubbish, then. Wonderful.

Glad I won’t be around to read it.

19
Jun
11

A Sobering Map [Updated 06/21/11]

This image, courtesy of this website, is a visual representation of the roughly 40,000 people who have lost their lives as a result of drug-related violence in Mexico. According to the site,

The RED balloons are civilians. The RED balloons with a dot are politicians, and other high profile killings. The BLUE balloons are police officers and soldiers (and other law enforcement). The BLUE balloons with a dot are high ranking officers. The YELLOW suns represent car bombs while the 2 GREEN people represent mass graves.

There are a number of different views on the website itself, allowing you to select out certain time-frames, etc.

I think it’s important to note that the ongoing violence in Mexico is related in large part — though not exclusively —  to the American demand for cocaine and marijuana, as well as for other drugs such as methamphetamines, which are increasingly being produced and smuggled into the US from Mexico. Perhaps more important, however, are the effects of American government policies, such as the so-called “War on Drugs” that, just as during Prohibition in the United States, effectively cede control of lucrative markets to criminal organizations while simultaneously pouring tens of millions of dollars into the struggle against those selfsame criminal enterprises. Unless wasting millions of dollars, strengthening brutal paramilitary mafias, and filling American prisons with drug offenders is the desired result of these policies,  it is difficult to discern what the American people are supposed to be getting out of this “war,” which has already killed 40,000 people south of the border.

Moreover, it’s almost certain that many of the firearms that the Obama Justice Department allowed to be smuggled into Mexico were used in at least some of the murders depicted on this map, just as they were used to kill American Border Patrol agents. In case you’re interested, the Congressional report about the so-called “Gunwalker” scandal can be found here.

In any case, ending the “War on Drugs” makes sense not only from an economic perspective — legalization and regulation would provide both the American and Mexican governments with badly needed sources of revenue, and emptying prisons of thousands of harmless drug offenders would ease some of the pressure on already strained state budgets — but also from a humanitarian perspective. President Obama committed the American military in Libya ostensibly to prevent the senseless slaughter of innocent civilians. Would that the President — or any other politician in this country, of either party — had the courage to finally bring to an end government policies that have resulted in a civilian body count orders of magnitude greater than anything that has taken place in Libya.

Alas, it seems that we have no problem marching into Tripoli, but no one can be bothered to take seriously the humanitarian catastrophe playing out just across the Rio Grande.

UPDATE:

Surprising exactly no one, Congressional Democrats have used the “Gunwalker” scandal — which the government itself was responsible for, as a pretext to introduce new gun control laws:

While Republicans have focused on Fast and Furious, three Democrats in the Senate this week called on Congress to beef up gun laws to try to curb the violence.

“Congress has been virtually moribund while powerful Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to gain unfettered access to military-style firearms coming from the United States,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said in a statement.

The cynicism and opportunism of these people never fails to dismay.

19
Mar
11

Let’s Be Clear: Eight Years Later

Today the president ordered a military offensive against a brutal dictator without the approval of Congress. I bet there will be all sorts of outrage and massive anti-war riots in the streets. Let me just check some popular liberal sites … hmm … nothing on Daily Kos. Talking Points Memo is fairly muted, and Michael Moore is still squawking about Wisconsin. Hell, HuffPo looks downright hawkish. “Not in our name” indeed.*

Putting aside the snark, here’s a statement from Obama:

I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.

Coincidentally, today is also the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. What did our current commander-in-chief think of brutal dictators prior to the invasion of Iraq? Here’s a quote from a 2002 stump speech:

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. The world, and the Iraqi people would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

Let me be clear: I’d like to think the experiences of the last eight years — Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Tunisia, Egypt — have made Obama a little wiser in regards to America’s responsibility to foster and support freedom in the world, hence his decision to stop Gaddafi from slaughtering his own people. However, I suspect his rhetoric and actions, just as they were in 2002, are motivated more by political expediency than anything else. (Say what you will about Bush, and there’s plenty to say, but no one ever accused him of making the easy or popular decisions.) Luckily for the people of Libya, political expediency is in their favor.

*Not in Our Name shuttered its doors in 2008 after liberals became profoundly unconcerned with what was attached to their name besides “hope” and “change.”